TACOMA – They fought an uphill battle all game long.
It was an unfamiliar trek for a Lynnwood girls basketball team that had been able to coast through much of the season.
And in the end the top-ranked Royals took a downhill slide, falling to No. 2 Gonzaga Prep in the Class 4A state semifinals, 61-56, Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“It was a big game and they’re a great team, so we just didn’t get the really quick start we’re normally able to get,” senior guard Jasmin Edwards said.
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Or the really strong finish. So it’s Gonzaga Prep (24-1), not Lynnwood, playing for its first championship Saturday at 5 p.m. against No. 4 Mount Rainier (25-3).
In a battle between young teams, the Bullpups played with poise and composure, while the Royals (24-2) got rattled with uncharacteristic turnovers and missed shots.
And Gonzaga got the play of the game from point guard Hannah Caudill, their only senior starter, with less than a minute and a half to play. The Bullpups led just 53-49 when Caudill lost the ball to Edwards. She stole it right back at midcourt, then fired a laser pass on the block to Otiona Gildon, who delivered a three-point play that all but iced it.
“I just had to make sure I finished, and I finished well,” said Gildon, a 6-foot junior who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Junior guard Laura Stockton added 16 points (hitting 8 of 10 free throws), five rebounds and five assists, but it was reserves Kayla Leland and Wendy Gregory who had coach Mike Arte beaming as they combined for five three-pointers.
He was especially pleased the way his team responded after the Royals went up 47-46 on a three-pointer by Edwards with 4:23 to play — their first lead since 3-2. The Bullpups — as accustomed to blowouts as Lynnwood — answered with an 11-2 run.
“To see them react to that in a positive manner –— not just win the game, but win the game with ease down the stretch and execute — I’m very proud of them,” he said. “This was a great win for us, a great win for our program.”
Lynnwood coach Everett Edwards expressed his pride, too, in the way his team reacted to a 10-point, first-half deficit.
“We fought back,” he said. “We took a one-point lead, and then the wheels fell off the bus a little bit. … All the credit goes to Gonzaga Prep. They stepped up and made the plays when they had to.”
Sophomore Mikayla Pivec started slowly, then scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half and finished with 12 rebounds. Jordan Edwards, Jasmin’s sophomore sister, added 12 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Jasmin wound up with seven points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The Royals can finish a best-ever third place with a win Saturday at 1 p.m. over No. 9 Moses Lake (21-5), and that’s just what they plan to do.
“We want to finish the season with a win, so just whatever it takes to pull through the next game, that’s what we’re thinking about,” Jasmin Edwards said.
And the Bullpups, who placed fourth last year, have their sights set on finishing first.
“We’ve had this in mind since my freshman year when we came and got fifth place,” Gildon said. “Every year we’ve said we’re going to continue to do better and better, and I think this is our year to set it straight.”
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